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Mall or Minnehaha? If you have a Minneapolis layover, both are easy trips

MINNEAPOLIS – Robots or Indian maidens? Shopping or nature? Bubba Gump Shrimp or a picnic? It’s the Mall of America versus Minnehaha Park. With 11 daily nonstop flights between Delta hubs Detroit and Minneapolis and many flights connecting there, the Twin Cities is a familiar sight to travelers, or at least the airport is. If you have a few hours to spare for a brief Minneapolis interlude but can’t stray far from the airport, both destinations are just minutes away. Here’s a scorecard to help you choose which nearby sight to see:

Convenience cachet

The mall is four stops (10 minutes) south of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport if you take the Hiawatha 55 light rail transit line.

The park is three stops (6 minutes) north.

Advantage: Tie – both are incredibly convenient to the light rail line, which you can pick up inside airport terminals.

Fame factor

Minnehaha Park is one of the city’s oldest attractions, founded in 1889, but very few people outside Minnesota have heard of it. Its most famous celebrity visitor was President Lyndon Johnson back in 1964.

The Mall of America is the biggest mall in the U S. Celebrities such as Hilary Duff appear there frequently.

Advantage: Mall of America.

Size matters

The mall sits on 78 acres, has 4.2 million square feet and features 520 stores.

The park covers 194 acres and features the Mississippi River and a waterfall.

Advantage: Believe it or not, Minnehaha Park.

Popular pick

About 40 million people a year visit Mall of America.

About 850,000 visit Minnehaha Park.

Advantage: Mall of America.

Best raison d’être

Mall of America’s sole ambition when it opened 20 years ago on Aug. 11, 1992, was to be the biggest mall in the U.S. It still is.

Minnehaha Park was created in honor of the romantic 1855 epic Longfellow poem, “Song of Hiawatha.” The poem actually takes place near Pictured Rocks along the Michigan shoreline of Gitche Gumee (Lake Superior). But a lot of the names in the poem were borrowed from Minnesota, especially Minnehaha, a Dakota word, which in any case sounds better in trochaic tetrameter than Munising.

At any rate, many critics later derided Minnehaha Park as being based on a poem that contains hopeless “noble savage” stereotypes, although the park itself is lovely.

Advantage: Mall of America

Best statue

The mall has a bright blue Hero-Bot 9000 statue made of 2.8 million Lego bricks; it stands 34 feet tall. It was installed in 2010.

The park features an elegant bronze statue of Hiawatha holding his beloved Minnehaha in his arms. It was created by artist Jacob Fjelde and installed in 1912 along the shore of Minnehaha Creek.

Advantage: Mall of America. Hey, you try building a statue with 2.8 million Legos.

Most impressive vision

The mall’s third-floor balconies have vast vistas of the kaleidoscope excitement of the Nickelodeon Universe indoor amusement park.

The park has Minnehaha Falls, a spectacular 53-foot rushing waterfall plunging into a scenic cove below.

Advantage: Minnehaha Park.

Best for your health

Mall of America has every fattening food invented, every ostentatious store possible, every way to lure you from your money and is loud enough to damage your hearing (OK, it does have a Mayo Clinic branch inside, a redeeming virtue, but, still.)

Minnehaha Park has soothing sounds of waterfalls and whispering breezes, shady park benches and four-wheel surrey bikes you can pedal down bucolic lanes.

Advantage : Minnehaha Park

Most likely to impress your friends back home:

In this day and age? Come, on.

Advantage: Mall of America.

And the winner is ...

By these calculations, Mall of America wins handily. However, I declare the winner is ... Minnehaha Park. If you have only a few hours between hectic flights, see nature, not Nordstrom.

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